DHAHRAN, SAUDI ARABIA -- They're dirty. They're homesick. They have been baked by the sun and chilled to the bone. Some would dearly love a drink. They've seen precious few homemade cookies since Christmas. But the allied voices at the front, from the high command to the lowly private, tell a story of determination that has been enhanced instead of suppressed by six months of waiting out Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in the desert.
From a lance corporal: "I hope this is Armageddon so we can get it all over with."
Lt. Gen. Charles A. Horner, the man in charge of the U.S. air campaign: "This attack on Khafji -- that's stupid! That's the stupidest thing he could do. Now, why is he doing that? To me it occurs one of the answers is that he's desperate, and he sees that he's getting chewed up. Maybe he sees the sand running out on them."
Pfc. Kenneth Johns of Chico, Calif., an Army engineer: "This is one big cat box. Nothing more, nothing less."
First Lt. Steven Swenson of Reno, Nev., at the front: "It's like camping at the foot of a sleeping volcano."
A staff sergeant with a tank division: "We've got a personal vendetta. It's all because of one man. There is not a doubt in our minds, this guy's history."
Lt. Col. Dick "Snake" White of Arkansas, commander of a squadron of AV-8B Harrier attack planes flying over the Khafji battle: "My biggest danger was running into another U.S. aircraft. It was almost like trying to get into the checkout during a close-out sale on ladies' lingerie." Speaking of the Iraqis coming out of their defensive positions to fight, he added, "Now, it's almost like you flipped on the light in the kitchen late at night and the cockroaches start scurrying, and we're killing them. They're moving in columns, they're moving in small groups and convoys. It's exactly what we've been looking for, and it sounds to me like he's lost his marbles."
Staff Sgt. Rick Taylor of the Marines' combat engineers, lecturing troops on the job of the troops who search for mines: "When they disappear into that big pink mist with body parts flying, you'll know what to do."
Staff Sgt. Benjamin Hoover of Oklahoma: "We've got to attack the Iraqi forces unless Saddam gives up. But he's like a tick on a dog. He won't leave."
Maj. Frank Timmons, who gets supplies for his troops, when asked what gave him the courage to go straight to the top, to a major general, demanding tents: "What was he going to do, send me to Saudi Arabia? The worst he could do was say no."
A Marine major speaking of the ground offensive: "I expect we're going to expel them rather violently. . . . We're going to spank them pretty hard."
Lance Cpl. Harlow Fisher, who converted to Islam a year ago and came to the gulf in spite of his reluctance to fight a Muslim brother: "Islam says honor your contracts."